ONTD Political

2nd-grader Sean King gets in trouble for dressing in blackface as tribute to Martin Luther King Jr

11:27 am - 05/20/2012
Controversy erupted at a Colorado elementary school after a student arrived in blackface as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. costume for a class project.

Second-grader Sean King was asked to remove the makeup by officials at Meridian Ranch Elementary chool in Colorado Springs Wednesday, reported KRDO-TV.


Each student in the class had been assigned a historical figure to dress up as for “wax museum day” at the school, the station reported.

Sean's mother, Michelle King-Roca, told Denver’s 7News her son was really excited about the project.

"He said, 'Mom, I want to wear a black suit because that's what he wore, a black tie, a white shirt, and also I want to do my face black and wear a mustache,'" said King-Roca.

After complaints from a faculty member that took issue with the blackface, the principal asked Sean to remove the face paint or leave the school.

Sean’s parents, who had come to school that day to watch the presentations, decided to take him home.

A spokeswoman for the principal told KRDO that some students, as well as the faculty member who initially complained, felt the costume was offensive. It's the principal's job to make sure the school is a safe environment for students, she said.

Face paint violates the school's dress code policy, she said.

Sean said he never meant to cause offense. "They thought it was inappropriate and it will be disrespectful to black people and I say it's not. I like black people. It's just a costume and I don't want to insult anybody," he said, reported KRDO.

Members of the community have taken to the school's Facebook page to voice their opinion.

“It seems school districts today are just a bit overzealous when it comes to racial correctness. If this young man wasn't disrespecting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or his audience then why would you do something like this?" wrote Bill Stevens Wednesday. "This is what causes racial division in our country today."

Local NAACP president Rosemary Harris Lytle came out in support of school officials' decision to ask Sean to take off the makeup.

"Having blackface as a part of his presentation, it ended up harkening back to a really tragic time in the life of this country a time when blackface was used ... to demean African-Americans in a way that I know that this young man could not have intended to do," Lytle said.


Source has a picture.

Mods, I have no idea how to tag this. Suggestions/tags welcome.
etherealtsuki 20th-May-2012 11:29 pm (UTC)
Am I the only one who is confused with the comments that it was the teacher's onus that they should've said not to do colorface. I expect that there's would be enough common sense not to do it via the kid's guardian(s), and I assume they thought that too.

It's all the kid's parents' fault because they should know better.

Edit for grammar.

Edited at 2012-05-20 11:32 pm (UTC)
evewithanapple 20th-May-2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
It would actually be a good teaching opportunity for the students- teachers could walk them through what is and isn't okay in terms of dressing up as POC. But if they just wanted to ensure that the kids wouldn't be doing blackface then yeah, it should be implicit. (Although it might shut up parents who were like "well they didn't SAY the kids couldn't paint their faces!"
etherealtsuki 21st-May-2012 12:26 am (UTC)
I agree. Maybe I am uncomfortable with letting the parents off the hook implication in it. I mean, the teacher should teach about colorface but they shouldn't be the first person that they hear this from. Yeah, they missed an important lesson they should've taught, but they shouldn't be the one primarily blamed.
lickety_split 21st-May-2012 12:00 am (UTC)
MEMO TO CLASS: DO NOT BE RACIST WITH YOUR COSTUME PORTRAYALS MMMKAY??
stevie_jane 21st-May-2012 12:12 am (UTC)
I know what you mean, logic and common sense would dictate that people wouldn't be stupid enough to think black face would ever be okay.

I'm still surprised there's no limit to the stupid shit people do. There should be a limit, fuckdammit.
roseofjuly 21st-May-2012 12:36 am (UTC)
I am, because I don't think a teacher should have to say to a class full of 7 year olds that they shouldn't do blackface. Their parents should have enough sense to make sure they aren't walking out of the house in blackface.
spiffynamehere 21st-May-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, I am, too. They're assuming the kids' parents, who are adults and shit, have a certain base level of sense. It'll probably be specified from now on, but I completely understand no one thinking "hey, we should specify that they can't do this thing that is almost universally acknowledged as racist".
ceilidh 21st-May-2012 01:03 am (UTC)
You would think that parents would have the sense not to do this shit and it shouldn't NEED to be said, but alas, proof right here that it should have been said. When you teach elementary school (or any age, really) you seriously cannot assume that people are not going to do stupid things out of ignorance or malice. You are dealing with a wide section of people, not just the type of people who hang out in places like _p and maek the effort (well, most people here) to educate themselves about various issues. Maybe 95% of the parents would have the sense not to do this shit, and then the other 5% are the kind that let their kid wear blackface or dress as an "Indian" or a "Gypsy" for Halloween because they think it's pwecious.

I dont' think it's the teacher's FAULT (that fault is 100% with the parents) but part of the process of educating people to be productive citizens is teaching them that this shit is not okay and sometimes you just have to spell out things that are blatantly DUH obvious to us.
effervescent 21st-May-2012 01:43 am (UTC)
I'm not surprised, because societal expectation is that teachers should be prepared for all the stupid stuff that their students and students' parents will do, and offset it. I imagine that going forward, this teacher and all the other teachers who hear about this will definitely have a warning. I almost think that as a rule, that if you think 'oh, nobody would be stupid enough to _____', you should have a warning for it anyway.
ceilidh 21st-May-2012 02:56 am (UTC)
I almost think that as a rule, that if you think 'oh, nobody would be stupid enough to _____', you should have a warning for it anyway.

Pretty much, unfortunately.
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